Sunday, July 2, 2017

UK in late June

A short visit for work and a few days seeing family & friends in East Anglia afforded some opportunities for birding, especially given the long summer days and a dose of jet lag which meant very early mornings were no problem!

Sandwich Tern on Brownsea

Med Gull

After working in Oxford for a couple of days a mad dash to Dorset resulted in dipping the Elegant Tern that had graced various points along the English south coast in previous weeks, but alowed me to add Brownsea Island to my list of "islands I have visited".  Seeing a Red Squirrel whilst on the island was a bonus and several Mediterranean Gulls around Sandbanks during an inelegant evening seawatch made me realise just how common this once-scarce bird has become.

Leaving Dorset I drove overnight to Norfolk to meet up with friends there.  Titchwell RSPB at dawn was a pleasure, with the place pretty much to myself, save for several Spoonbills, more Mediterranean Gulls, an Arctic Skua and small numbers of waders including several islandica Black-tailed Godwits that offered an instructive lesson in size variation.

phoneskope'd islandica Blackwit

islandica Blackwit with Nikon V1 & 300mm PF

The particularly instructive Blackwit that I watched was the breeding plumaged bird below (partially obscured by an Avocet in the first two images). Note that the bird actually looks smaller than the two Bar-tailed Godwits on the far right of the first image, and is dwarfed by the preening non-breeding plumaged Blackwit.

head up and it proves to indeed be "just" a Blackwit

Having done some reading on the ID of islandica and nominate limosa Blackwits it seems that islandica is shorter-billed and shorter-legged, with males being smaller than females.  It seems that nominate limosa is rare away from its UK breeding grounds in the East Anglian fens, so I take it that both these birds are islandica with the breeding plumaged bird being an exceptionally small male.

An afternoon and overnight with the family Lowen included a visit to Potter Heigham  and Hickling to see some of the UK's rarest breeders and specialities including a pair Black-winged Stilts and third adult and three of their four chicks, a pair of Common Cranes, at least thirteen Spoonbills and exceptional views of several Swallowtail butterflies along with bonus White Admiral.  A visit to Cley with Mr Barbato a couple of days later produced yet more Spoonbills plus a Yellow-legged Gull.

Black-winged Stilt, Potter Heigham


White Admiral
Spoonbill, Cley
Yellow-legged Gull with Nikon V1 & 300mm PF +1.7 tc

Yellow-legged Gull with Nikon V1 & 300mm PF +1.7 tc

Yellow-legged Gull with phoneskope'd

A visit to my boyhood local patch, Holmethorpe Pits in east Surrey yielded four "patch ticks" as a sign of the times - with Common Buzzard and Red Kite  seen, and a Peregrine chasing Ring-necked Parakeets!  None of those species were there in the late 1980s or early 1990s when I was birding there, but nowadays they seem reasonably unremarkable.

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